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Face-off for Bann and Hinch after failed title bids as Braid survive

 

By Michael Sadlier

Though both Ballynahinch and Banbridge were always outside bets in the three-way last day wrestle for the 1B title, Shannon's second half against UCC put paid to the Ulster clubs' aspirations of automatic promotion.

The accepted assumption was that Hinch and Bann would face off in a promotion play-off semi-final but there was a sting in the tail regarding where the sides ultimately finished in the table.

Hinch looked good to end up in second - and host Bann for the play-off - and this notion was given further traction as they were entertaining Old Belvedere at Ballymacarn Park, with the Dublin side unable to improve on fifth place.

But, for all that, Brian McLaughlin's side surprisingly came unstuck 16-13.

With Bann managing to bag maximum points from their narrow 32-30 home victory over UL Bohemians, the Rifle Park team took ownership of second place in the table meaning that Hinch ended up in third and now have to make the trip to their Ulster rivals and win there to keep their hopes of making it up to 1A alive.

Having lost 32-31 to UCC in their previous game, Bann looked to be in deep trouble again at Rifle Park when trailing 15-0.

But then their fortunes began to change after tries from Andrew Morrison and Peter Cromie gave coach Dan Soper's men some renewed belief after taking a 19-15 half-time lead.

Though they fell behind once more, Morrison and Cromie scored again - the latter's effort bringing the try bonus - with James Hume kicking 12 points to take Bann up to second, three points ahead of Hinch, to claim the sought after prize of a home semi-final.

Hinch fell 13-0 behind against Belvo and though Hinch did manage 13 points in the second half - courtesy of a Zac Ward try along with a conversion and two penalties from Richard Reaney - it wasn't enough.

Meanwhile, at Eaton Park, Ballymena faced their own issues with the prospect of defeat to fellow strugglers Old Wesley, and a win for Bohs at Bann, offering up the very unpleasant prospect of the Braidmen ending up in ninth and facing a relegation play-off.

No better time then to produce their third victory on the bounce though the Braidmen just about got over the line after winning 22-21.

It took a late Callum Patterson penalty - after flanker Matthew Agnew had already bagged a hat-trick of tries - to seal the deal and calm Ballymena's frayed nerves in a game of nip and tuck between two sides desperate to get something from the game.

As things turned out, Ballymena's win and the losing bonus earned by Wesley proved enough for both to finish in seventh and eighth respectively.

After falling 10-0 behind, Andy Graham's players began to turn the screw with Agnew scoring his first two touchdowns.

Patterson converted the second to give the home side a narrow 12-10 lead at the interval.

Though Wesley snatched the lead, Patterson had the final say.

1B: Ballymena 22 Wesley 21, Hinch 13 Belvo 16, Bann 32 Bohs 30

Champions: Shannon.

Promotion play-offs: Bann v Hinch, St Mary's v UCC

Relegation play-off: UL Bohs v Nenagh

Relegated: Dolphin

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